Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son, Cpl. Yair Netanyahu, spent a few days on a private visit to New York with a bodyguard financed by the State of Israel.

Yair Netanyahu took approved leave from his unit to join his parents on their trip to the United States some 10 days ago. After the couple's return home, he stayed overseas accompanied by a bodyguard.

Netanyahu, who is serving in an Army Radio unit, is always accompanied by a bodyguard in Israel. Outside the base he is guarded by an officer from the Prime Minister's Office. Inside, the Israel Defense Forces unit for guarding VIPs is responsible for his security.

The Shin Bet security service decided that the prime minister's family needs constant security. Yair Netanyahu's security arrangements at the army base have caused something of a controversy; some officers deem them excessive. But the Shin Bet insists on constant protection.

Yair Netanyahu requested and was given approval to take a vacation abroad like any other soldier. The security authorities decided that a bodyguard must accompany him on his private visit to New York.

The cost for the constant protection is estimated at a few thousand dollars, at least. The expense is much higher if the bodyguard was sent from the Prime Minister's Office rather than from the Israeli Consulate in New York.

In response to a query by Haaretz, the Prime Minister's Bureau did not deny that a bodyguard had accompanied Netanyahu on his private vacation.

"Yair Netanyahu flew with the prime minister to the United States and stayed there a few more days on a private vacation," the bureau said in a statement.

"Yair's trip is being paid in full by the Netanyahu family, including the flights and all the other expenses. He spent another few days in New York with friends. His security arrangements were decided on by the security authorities alone."

The Prime Minister's Bureau had kept Yair's plan to join his parents on the trip a secret. His name did not appear on the passenger list sent to Israel's consulates in the United States for reserving the entourage's hotel rooms.

The prime minister's aides only told the media about Yair's trip after Netanyahu's plane had taken off and well after the newspapers had finished their work for the evening.

Yair Netanyahu flew with his parents in business class and stayed in a room in the same hotels. He spent most of the trip with his mother. The two were accompanied by bodyguards and received transportation services provided by the Israeli Consulate in New York.